Yussa Errenis, doctor of Transmutation, brilliant researcher, and well known academic of the esteemed University of Nicodranas, was being stood up. Well, maybe not yet. But his 4:30 appointment was late. Ten minutes late and Dr. Yussa Errenis did not like being kept waiting. Especially when it was a last minute request before semester started. Something about a therapy animal and a signature for one of his new advisees. Yussa hadn’t read the entire long and overly polite email before replying that yes that would be fine and the student could stop by his office Friday for the paperwork. He deeply regretted making it the last appointment of the week because now he was stuck waiting for some tardy student to get their act together so he could leave.
Wentworth had texted asking when Yussa would be home and what he was thinking for dinner. And Yussa just wanted to go home and have a nice quiet evening with his partner before the hecticness of the school year started. One last weekend of quiet. But no, he was stuck in his stuffy office scrolling through garbage news articles because he didn’t actually want to look at his email and get actual work done.
There was a knock on his open office door. Finally. Yussa kept his eyes on his computer screen to give the illusion of importance. Let the student squirm. Yussa could have been halfway home to a nice dinner already.
“You’re late Mr.Widogast...” Yussa trailed off as he looked up.
This was probably not Caleb Widogast.
An intense looking woman stood in the doorway. Nothing about her screamed the serious polite masters student of the email. The shaved sides of her head, the oversized rugby sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off. The look of an athlete. Not an academic. Probably. Her eyes were very sharp.
“Sup.” She didn’t look particularly impressed with his illusion of importance. Yussa managed a polite nod which was something, considering.
“I’m here to get some signatures for Mr.Widogast .” She mimicked his tone. Eyes not leaving his face. Intense look not leaving hers. This was ridiculous. Yussa had been a professor longer than this woman had been alive. But he still felt like she was staring right through him.
Yussa cleared his throat and gathered himself a bit.
“And Mr.Widogast is where exactly?” He asked. It was nearly fifteen minutes past the appointment time. He had some room to be peeved. The woman didn’t break eye contact. He wasn’t actually sure he had seen her blink this entire time.
“Third floor girl’s bathroom breathing through a panic attack.” Well, Yussa was beginning to feel like an ass. The woman slapped a folder down on his desk, nearly knocking over a ink pot. “Sorry I’m late. Had to wait for Nott to get there and take over.”
Yussa didn’t know who Nott was. Or who this lady was. He hadn’t even met Caleb Widogast yet. But it was clear the man had some good friends. Yussa pulled the folder towards him and flipped it open. It was less of a request and more of a statement of intentions. The campus accessibility office and medical doctor had already cleared it and his signature was more of a formality. This was just a heads up for Yussa. He looked over the papers quickly signing and initialling where needed, aware of the woman’s eyes on him. The animal in question was a Fae Familiar, there wouldn’t even be the question of keeping the animal under control or student allergies. This wasn’t a big deal. Certainly not worth a panic attack. He half wanted to ask if Mr. Widogast would be able to handle the academic pressures of the year. But as he glanced up and saw the way the woman was watching him sign the papers with a look of relief and determination in her eyes, he decided not to ask. The question would not be well received. He finished with the last paper and slid the folder back to the woman.
“Thanks.” The way she said it implied a very very small amount of manners.
“Not a problem Ms.-?”
“Beauregard. Lionett.” She bit off the last name like it left an unpleasant taste in her mouth.
“A pleasure Ms. Lionett.” Neither of them quite believed that. “And please wish Mr. Widogast a pleasant weekend. I look forward to working with him.”
The woman had been moving to the door, folder tucked under her arm, at his words she stopped and turned back to look at him. Any softness in her eyes in the form of relief was gone. It was replaced by a sharp burn that came from somewhere deep. She spoke, voice low.
“This is a statement.” Not a threat. “Caleb’s last advisor was deeply fucked up. He did some deeply fucked up things. We’re not going to let that happen again.”
Yussa didn’t know what that meant. He didn’t know who that ‘we’ implied. But he didn’t doubt Beauregard Lionett’s words. He nodded. She nodded back and turned towards the door.
“Good. And call me Beau.”
She was gone. Yussa sat in the suddenly very loud silence of his office. He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He doubted that would be the last time he saw Beauregard. He shook his head and began to pack up his briefcase. It was friday. He wanted to go home and have dinner with Wentworth. One last weekend of quiet before the semester started.
Whatever doubts Yussa had over Caleb Widogast’s capabilities were fortunately proven wrong the first few weeks of classes. Mr. Widogast turned out to be a quiet and capable young man. He asked intelligent questions during the weekly seminar and the work he turned in was always of high quality. The amount of requested lab time spoke of an excellent work ethic. The man’s TAing abilities were also encouraging. No lab incidents, impressive for a 100 level class full of over confident freshmen. Yussa observed him staying well past his appointed time after class to answer questions and assist with undergrad homework. The passion was easy to see as the man spoke on what was clearly his favorite topic. Well, second favorite. The man’s cat, Frumpkin the service familiar, took that honor. The large orange cat quickly became a favorite fixture in the Transmutation department.
Despite all that it wasn’t hard to miss what lay under the hard work and polite smile. The haunted look that always just under the surface. The flinches at loud noises. The complete lack of eye contact with Yussa. He had seen the man engaged in animated conversation before with others. But what little interaction Yussa had with him was always stilted. Mr. Widogast’s voice, always quiet, would stutter and often leave the man completely. Yussa would give him time and professional indifference. Which seemed to help. Still Yussa couldn’t help but notice the difference in body language. Even Widogast’s cat, usually relaxed and friendly, would become alert whenever Yussa was in the room. Feline eyes watching his every move.
Two weeks into the semester Yussa returned from a lunch appointment to find a blue teifling sitting outside his office in one of the hall chairs. Her legs were too short to reach the ground and she was swinging them enthusiastically. She wasn’t one in any of his classes. Yussa would have remembered her. Maybe a student looking to transfer early in the semester. She noticed him approaching and closed the thick textbook she had been reading before he arrived. Not before Yussa could see the contents though. It was a high level clerical text, with copious amounts of anatomically correct dicks drawn in the margins. She crammed it in her oversized pink backpack. She bounced to her feet with a grin.
“Are you Dr. Errenis? Beau said this was your office.” The mention of that name gave Yussa pause but he powered through.
“Yes. And you are?” The teifling smiled larger and shook his hand with a much stronger grip than he expected from such a small being.
“Hi, I’m Jester. I’m another of Caleb’s friends.”
“I just wanted to drop by and say hello. And,” she dropped his hand to turn back to her bag, Yussa resisted the urge to shake out his fingers. “I wanted to give you this.”
She handed over a slip of paper. It had a list of names and phone numbers written on it. Along the top, in neat glittery handwriting, were the words “ Caleb Widogast ICE contact list”. Yussa stared at it, unsure of what to do.
“I couldn’t get much out of Caleb but Beau and Nott said you seemed like a good guy. I’ve been watching you and I think you seem like a good guy too.”
“Thank you?” Yussa was absolutely sure he had never seen this person before in his life. He had no idea how she had been watching him. She was still talking.
“I was just thinking since you’re Caleb’s advisor and all you’ll be seeing a whole lot of him this year and sometimes Caleb’s brain isn’t so great so if something goes wrong or he has a really really bad day you can give one of us a call.”
She hadn’t taken a breath the whole time she spoke and was now staring at him. Expectantly.
“I- yes?” Yussa wasn’t sure how to respond but that seemed to be the right one. Jester’s smile was even brighter.
“Great! Oh, also I made some cookies, they’re super good. Would you like some?”
Yussa found himself in his office a few minutes later with a tupperware of cinnamon and chocolate cookies in his hands and for some reason glitter up one sleeve. He sat down behind his desk feeling something like shellshock. He looked at the note in his hand. He made to open his drawer and then thought better of it. He pulled out his phone to take a picture before taping the note to the inside of his desk. He stared at it for a moment longer before closing his drawer. He cracked open the tupperware and carefully selected a cookie. Giving it a careful smell Yussa took a careful bite. He raised an eyebrow. They were indeed ‘super good’.
There were a lot of strange things about Caleb Widogast. Yussa wasn’t judging, merely observing. There was the cat. Always present, not unwelcome. There was baggy coat and long sleeves no matter the weather. The little collection of trinkets that accumulate on the man’s full but uncluttered desk every week tucked into the corner of the grad student office. Buttons, pretty rocks, the occasional screw or bolt, a pretty ribbon, tiny paper cranes made out of gum wrappers. Every monday the collection would start and by friday afternoon would be gone. There was also the rotating collection of terrible cat print shirts and ties with little paw prints on them. Yussa was fairly certain Widogast did not buy these for himself. Given the opportunity the man would likely wear the same shade of brown for every article of clothing he owned. Yussa would sometimes look across the lecture hall and see little flowers braided in to the man’s shaggy hair.
However, the strangest thing about Caleb Widogast by far, was the man’s friends.
The first face to face, one on one meeting took place three weeks into the semester. Yussa required his advisees to check in on their research project fairly frequently. Widogast chose the latest possible appointment for the first round of check-ins. Usually that implied a procrastinator but this was Widogast.
Yussa was just returning to his office after a far too long faculty meeting when he once again found someone waiting outside his office. Not Jester, the blue teifling, this time but a firbolg. Extremely tall, extremely gangly, with a extremely pink mohawk. Yussa got a slow smile as he approached.
“If you’re here to discuss classwork then I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. I have an appointment in five minutes.” Yussa was absolutely positive this firbolg was not in any of his classes and it was too late to transfer.
“Oh I know. Don’t worry, I’m just here.”
Okay then, Yussa didn’t have a remark for that so he gave the impossibly calm firbolg a polite nod and made to unlock the door. He was just about to enter his office when the low voice stopped him.
“He probably won’t ask, but Caleb would greatly appreciate it if you left the door open.”
Yussa left the door propped open.
Widogast’s arrival was preceded by a low one sided conversation from the hall and then a very timid knock on the door. The man looked pale, the hand gripping the strap of his satchel white knuckled and shaking. Frumpkin was draped over Widogast’s shoulders. The cat met his eyes, the man did not.
“Afternoon, Mr.Widogast.” Yussa kept his voice light and professional. He got a quick nervous nod in return.
The meeting ran long. Widogast had a lot to talk about and was slow to do so. His accent was thicker than usual, he got stuck and often stuttered over words. It wasn’t all bad though. The man’s work was interesting and well thought out. It ended up being more of a strained conversation than an opportunity for advice. Yussa still had some comments however.
“Would you like something to write these notes down on Mr.Widogast?” Most of his students brought notebooks and would write furiously during these sessions. But Widogast’s hands had disappeared into pockets the moment the man had taken a seat.
“Ah, n-no. Thank you. I-” the man glanced up for just a moment, blue eyes meeting Yussa's. And then Widogast was staring at the corner of the desk again. He tapped his temple with a shaky hand. “I have a photographic memory.”
Alright then, Yussa raised his eyebrows. No need for notes.
It was nearly dark when the meeting finished up. Widogast stood stiffly and stammered out a goodbye before disappearing out the door. Yussa let the man have a few minutes headstart. He spent some time checking email and unnecessarily tidying his desk. Satisfied that he wouldn’t run into Widogast on the elevator Yussa packed up his bag and exited his office. He turned to lock the door behind him and started badly.
The firbolg was still there. Sitting, sipping on a steaming cup of tea and flipping through what looked like a seed catalogue. He gave Yussa that same slow calm smile as before.
“That sounded productive in there.”
“Ah, yes. Mr.Widogast is very bright.”
“Good, good. Nott is always saying the same thing. Would you like a cup?” The firbolg raised his mug. Yussa could smell a delicious floral smell wafting through the air.
“No. Thank you though, I must be getting home.”
“Of course, I hope you have a pleasant evening.”
“You as well Mr.?”
“Clay, Caduceus Clay. And one last thing before I forget Dr.Errenis.” The firbolg pulled something out of his bag standing as he did so and loomed over Yussa. “Jester asked me to pass these on to you. And that she would appreciate it if you would return the first tupperware as well.”
Yussa took the offered container of cookies.
“I will be sure to do that. Have a good evening Mr.Clay”
“You as well.”
Yussa looked back just before he turned the corner to see that the firbolg had settled back in his chair and was sipping at his tea. Just as relaxed as before. Yussa shook his head and tucked the cookies into his bag. He’d drop the tupperware on Widogast’s desk tomorrow when the man was running his intro lab session.
Days go by and Widogast continues to produce excellent work and Yussa continues to keep an eye on him. Not for any reason other than the man seemed to be surrounded by a multitude of questions and very strange folk.
Yussa manages to resist his curiosity for three weeks. Wentworth gets sick of the ‘enigma of Caleb Widogast’ and tells Yussa to either ask the man himself for his story or stop being nosy.
Yussa does neither and puts in a request to see Widogast previous coursework. He knows the man transferred to NU but not from where.
He gets an automatic email response stating that the records are paper copy only and that if Yussa wants to access them it will have to be in person at the CB archives. That made Yussa frown, usually student records aren’t housed in the Cobalt Branch Archives, but who was he to question the paper bureaucracy of the University. Probably a filing error caught by nobody but the computer.
That would be fine he would stop by tomorrow during lunch.
As he stepped into the building the next day he tells himself, as he always does, that he should spend more time in the archive. It’s beautiful architecture, the airy shelves, and calm atmosphere. He takes his time following the signs for the small clerk's office. He stepped into the slightly dusty room and closed the door behind. He turned to the clerk and froze.
Beauregard Lionett eyed him like a hawk might the moment before it dives. She wore the robes that all monks of the Cobalt Soul wore while in the archives. Her hand was resting on a thin folder on the desk. She looked like she had been waiting for him to step through the door. Yussa forced himself to walk up to the desk. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just requesting information on one students. Information that was available to him as a member of the staff.
“I’m here to request access to a file…” Yussa trailed off as Beau slid the folder forward in one sharp motion without taking her eyes off of him. It was years of maintaining composure that kept his hands from shaking slightly as he picked it up off the desk. Only just.
“Thank you.” Yussa’s words fell flat and dead into the carpet. He can feel her watching him as he slowly opens the folder.
He is met with a page of black bars covering text. Nearly everything is blacked out. A stamp across the top of the page reads ‘CONTENT CENSORED FOR STUDENT SAFETY’.
There was Widogast’s name and date of birth. No place of birth. No family listed. No personal history except his date of enrollment at NU. Yussa turned the page to look at transcripts and stared down at a page of black. There’s the name of the school, Soltryce, but nothing else. No courses, no grades, no dates. Nothing but black.
Yussa is so engrossed in looking for any sort of clue that he forgets that Beauregard is watching. He misses the sound of the door opening and shutting behind him.
“Hey Beau, I-” It’s a deep voice behind him. “Is this?”
Yussa looks up to see a tall half-orc. The same half-orc that he had frequently seen with Widogast before. Sometimes being tutored by Widogast or having a discussion, often just eating lunch and chatting. He had a good foot on Yussa and walked with a controlled confidence that Yussa certainly did not have at that age.
“Dr.Errenis, pleasure to make your acquaintance. The name’s Fjord.” He offered Yussa a hand to shake and Yussa set down the folder to do so.
Fjord looked calm and polite but Yussa couldn’t help but notice he now had a half-orc between him and the door and an angry monk on the other side. Fjord spoke.
“Hope you’re having a nice afternoon, the weather’s been lovely lately.” His voice was pleasant but that was only the thinnest front between his outward presentation and the steel behind his eyes. “We couldn't help but notice your interest in our friend Caleb. Understandable really, you are his advisor after all.”
Beauregard shifts behind Yussa, pulling the folder back across the desk towards her. Fjord’s eyes flick to her for the briefest of instances.
“Now, we understand curiosity. You’re welcome to keep digging deeper. We can’t stop you.”
Beauregard made a noise of either disbelief or malcontent in the back of her throat. Fjord continued speaking.
“We won’t stop you. But we can ask you to please respect our friend’s privacy. It’s taken him a lot to where he is now and we’d all like for him to see it through.”
The implications that they were capable of stopping Yussa and that Yussa was capable of derailing a brilliant student’s academic career hung heavy in the air.
“Is,” Yussa paused to clear his throat, “is Mr.Widogast okay?” The question joins the implications.
“No” Beauregard says at the same time Fjord speaks.
“He’s getting there.”
The two look at each other and Beauregard speaks before Fjord can offer any platitudes.
“He’s not okay. Not yet. And I’m not going to let some nosy professor drag up a bunch of shit the Caleb shouldn’t have to deal with right now.”
“Beau.” The half-orc’s voice held something like a warning. Beauregard stopped herself from saying something else and takes a breath. She fixed Yussa with the glare that makes him feel like she can see right through him. She holds up the slim folder like a challenge.
“Do you want me to make you a fucking copy?”
“Beau.” This time the half-orc sounds more resigned.
Yussa can’t help but clear his throat again.
“No, um. I am satisfied.” Fjord looks relieved. Beauregard does not look convinced. “I apologize.”
For what exactly Yussa can’t find the words for in the moment. After the fierce display of emotion and protectiveness any offering Yussa might have had would just sound hollow. He gives both of them a short bow and leaves the stuffy office.
Caleb Widogast is out sick the next two days and Yussa feels like he broke the fragile trust he didn’t even know he had in the first place. Wentworth says it’s entirely his fault and in correct in saying so.
On the second day there’s a knock on his office door. He looked up from where he wasn’t getting any work done.
“Enter.” He called glancing at his calendar. He’s pretty sure he didn’t have any meetings today.
A person steps into his office and makes the doorway look small. The wild hair and mismatched eyes. The dark makeup and the tattoo painted down her chin. The rugby sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, showing arms that could definitely rip the door off its hinges if so inclined. Mismatched eyes met his. Yussa knew he was a powerful mage. He lived the life to prove it. But magic is only good if you’re fast enough to cast it. And this was one of the most intimidating individuals Yussa had ever met. She brought a pressure into the room that reminded Yussa of a storm too close on the horizon. He felt himself instinctively reaching for the arcane focus he kept in his pocket.
The woman took two steps forward and dropped a large stack of graded lab reports in front of him. He recognized the scratchy writing filling in the margins with neat notes and corrections.
“Caleb asked me to drop them by. He said the students would need them to study for midterms.”
“Is Mr.Widogast alright-” Yussa looked up to see the office empty and the woman gone.